Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
 
August 24
Millais’s “Huguenots”
London Spectator
 
          An organized slaughter of French Protestants in Paris and the provinces instigated by Catherine de Medicis, the Queen Dowager. The number of victims is estimated at from 20,000 to 30,000. The massacre took place on St. Bartholomew’s Day (August 24), 1572.

YOUR favorite picture rises up before me,
  Whene’er you play that tune;
I see two figures standing in a garden
  In the still August noon.
 
One is a girl’s with pleading face turned upward        5
  Wild with a great alarm,
Trembling with haste, she binds her broidered kerchief
  Around the other’s arm.
 
Whose gaze is bent on her in tender pity,
  Whose eyes look into hers        10
With a deep meaning though she cannot read it,
  Hers are so dim with tears.
 
What are they saying in the sunny garden,
  With Summer flowers ablow?
What gives the woman’s voice its passionate pleading;        15
  What makes the man’s so low?
 
“See, love,” she murmurs, “you shall wear my kerchief,
  It is the badge, I know;
And it will bear you safely through the conflict
  If—if indeed you go?        20
 
“You will not wear it? Will not wear my kerchief?
  Nay! Do not tell me why,
I will not listen! If you go without it
  You will go hence to die.
 
“Hush! Do not answer! It is death, I tell you,        25
  Indeed I speak the truth.
You, standing there so full of life and courage,
  So bright with health and youth.
 
“You would go hence, out of the Summer sunshine,
  Out of the garden bloom;        30
Out of the living, thinking, feeling, present
  Into the unknown gloom?”
 
Than he makes answer. “Hush! oh, hush my darling!
  Life is so sweet to me,
So full of hope you need not bid me guard it,        35
  If such a thing might be!
 
“If such a thing might be!—but not through falsehood,
  I could not come to you;
I dare not stand here in your pure, sweet presence,
  Knowing myself untrue.”        40
 
“It is no sin!” the wild voice interrupts him,
  “This is no open strife.
Have you not often dreamt a nobler warfare
  In which to spend your life?
 
“Oh! for my sake—though but for my sake—wear it!        45
  Think what my life would be
If you, who gave it first true worth and meaning
  Were taken now from me!
 
“Think of the long, long days, so slowly passing!
  Think of the endless years!        50
I am so young! Must I live out my life-time
  With neither hopes nor fears?”
 
He speaks again, in mournful tones and tender,
  But with unswerving faith:
“Should not love make us braver, aye, and stronger        55
  Either for life or death?
 
“And life is hardest. Oh, my love, my treasure
  If I could bear your part
Of this great sorrow, I would go to meet it
  With an unshrinking heart.        60
 
“Child! child! I little dreamt in that bright Summer
  When first your love I sought,
Of all the future store of woe and anguish
  Which I, unknowing, wrought.
 
“But you’ll forgive me? Yes, you will forgive me        65
  I know, when I am dead!
I would have loved you—but words have scant meaning
  God loves you more instead.”
 
Then there is silence in the sunny garden,
  Until, with faltering tone,        70
She sobs, the while still clings close to him,
  “Forgive me—go—my own!”
 
So human love, and faith by death unshaken,
  Mingle their glorious psalm,
Albeit low, until the passionate pleading        75
  Is hushed in deepest calm.
 
 
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